Those without a sweet tooth can celebrate in savoury fashion, thanks to IJ Mellis.
The Scottish cheesemonger, which has four shops in Edinburgh, one in Glasgow and another in St Andrews, has just launched an online cakebuilder. It allows you to build your dream cake - perhaps an alternative to a Christmas pudding - up to nine tiers high and made out of more than 50 types of artisan cheese.
They’ve been providing these towers for decades, since shortly after the Victoria Street shop was opened by Rory’s dad, Ian Mellis, in the early Nineties. However, now it’s easier to order your own.
“This tool is invaluable as an inventive way to incorporate cheese into celebrations. Our aim is to make it more accessible”, says director Rory Mellis. “We created it so that customers could easily build their own bespoke cake to their preferences and see how it will look when it is delivered. It also provides measurements, pricing, tasting notes and serving sizes. All you have to do is select your cheeses, and the cakebuilder will automatically populate the layers so that they stack in size order”.
Once they receive your order, IJ Mellis have to take some practicalities into account.
“If you order soft cheeses as a base layer, we include small inserts to reinforce the cheese so that you can stack harder cheeses on top without damaging the structure”, says Mellis. “We could go higher than nine layers, but the cake can become a little unstable at that point. We have had customers order additional cheeses to supplement their order - you can add more to the cart at checkout. If you're looking for a bigger display, we'll make it happen”.
There is also variability when it comes to cost. It’d be easy to blow the budget, but the cakebuilder automatically tots up the price as you add wheels.
“When we say the options are nearly limitless, we mean it - you can order nine whole Alp Blossoms for your cake, which would probably be on the pricier side, but look a little strange, “ says Mellis, in reference to the cheese that is coated with herbs and flowers. “Alternatively, for a smaller celebration, you can order a short stack - something like a Brillat Savarin, Maida Vale and little Dorstone - which makes a lovely centrepiece for a dinner party”.
There are also lots of Scottish cheeses on offer, from Hebridean Blue to Isle of Mull Cheddar and Auld Reekie.
Some customers will decorate the finished cakes themselves, but IJ Mellis can work with local florists to prettify them. With or without flowers, they’ve had plenty of positive feedback about the resulting product.
“We occasionally receive emails from our customers with photos of their cake at their celebration, or we are tagged in photos on Instagram, and we're thrilled to see the final product on display”, says Mellis. “Customers tend to order a cake as a statement piece, and this is the feedback we receive - not only do their guests think it's delicious, but it also adds an intriguing visual aspect to the event. Cheese is normally purchased and eaten in small quantities, so for most people, a tower of cheese is impressive to behold”.